A Wichita father who claimed immunity under Kansas’ Stand Your Ground law will face prosecution in the stabbing death of a 22-year-old woman who died after a confrontation over a parking spot, the state Court of Appeals has ruled.
The appeals court overturned a decision by a district judge who had dismissed second-degree murder and other charges and released Seth Collins, 38, citing the state’s Stand Your Ground law.
Collins was charged with stabbing two women, one fatally, following a confrontation that began over a blocked parking space at their south Wichita apartment complex on April 13, 2016.
Stand Your Ground is a 7-year-old Kansas law stating that a person who is attacked doesn’t have to try to get away but can stay and fight. It allows attack victims to use deadly force if they reasonably believe it’s necessary to protect themselves from death or great bodily harm.
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The appeals court ruled that a jury, not the judge, should decide whether Collins’ use of deadly force was reasonably justified.
Collins had taken his two daughters, ages 8 and 15, out for ice cream. When they returned, Collins tried to park in an open space at the apartment building, the court record said.
“However, Collins realized he could not park his car safely in the space because the car next to the space had the driver’s-side door open and Shayla (Brown) was standing inside of the open car door talking to her friend, Luz Toral,” the appeals court ruling said. “It was disputed whether Collins politely asked Shayla to move so that he could park his car in that space. What was undisputed was that Collins and Shayla got into a verbal argument that included an exchange of racial and other insults.”
Collins parked in another space, but as he and his daughters walked to the door of the building, they were confronted by Toral, Brown and her identical twin sister, Kayla Brown, the ruling said.
Collins then got into a fistfight with all three of the young women, their mother, Trishall Dear, and another friend, Coriaynia Porter, court records said.
While this was going on, Collins’ 15-year-old daughter led the 8-year-old to another building in the complex, where the older girl called 911. A neighbor escorted the girls home to their own apartment and they were uninjured, the ruling said.
After he got back to the apartment, Collins realized he had lost his eyeglasses in the fight and went outside to get them. After he retrieved the glasses, he got into another argument with the twins and their mother, and they followed him into the building.
At the second-floor stairway landing, Collins pulled a 4-inch pocketknife on the three women, the ruling said.
Shayla Brown testified that she then grabbed Collins’ shirt, causing all four of them to tumble down the stairs, records said.
As they fell, Collins lashed out with his knife. Shayla Brown suffered a wound on her arm and Kayla Brown suffered a fatal stab wound to her neck, the ruling said.
The appellate judges ruled that in excusing Collins from having to face trial, Sedgwick County District Judge John Kisner had incorrectly applied the reasonable force standard of the Stand Your Ground law.
They also ruled he gave too much weight to Collins’ testimony that he acted out of fear of great bodily harm.
The ruling also noted that Kisner thought Collins may have been “looking for a fight” and “looking for a chance to pull out the knife and use it” when he went back outside after the first altercation.
“In our view, the State met its burden (to justify taking the case to trial) because a reasonable person — given the district court’s assessment of the conflicting evidence — could have concluded Collins’ acts were not justified,” the court ruling said. “Collins’ claim of self-defense is, therefore, appropriately left for a jury to decide.”